Having read books 2 and 3 of Tracie Peterson’s Heart of the Frontier series, I knew a bit more going into this first installment of the series than I normally would have. Nevertheless, seeing the story play out was very enjoyable and I again appreciated the way in which true historical events were used and people portrayed.
“My husband said the Indians were savages incapable of civilizing themselves without the help of whites. He said they were like children who needed a firm hand of discipline.”
Alex frowned. “Your husband was a fool.”
Grace was surprised by his comment. “I often concluded as much myself, but why do you say that? Most white men believe the Indians in need of civilizing.”
“Most white men are fools.” (pp.43-44)
Having Grace (Flanagan) Martindale’s first marriage only be shown in retrospect was a choice I appreciated, as the Right Reverend Martindale would have been an insufferable character. Alex Armistead, on the other hand, was an interesting choice as a protagonist and I enjoyed his interactions with Grace as they discuss attitudes and she quickly adapts her pre-conceived notions. Having attitudes of the day shown in this way was another choice that enhanced my enjoyment of the story.
Grace watched as the doctor did his best to convince the Indians that he was doing all that could be done. She pitied Whitman in that moment. He was a hard man, arrogant and opinionated, but he did care about these people. (p.60)
Portraying a historical figure is, I imagine, more challenging when that person was a victim of a massacre and yet not the most sympathetic character. Having Grace struggle with Marcus Whitman’s authority and her desire to help people despite his edict that she not practice her skills as a healer during a cholera outbreak added to the tension of the plot that was already heavy with the looming threat of violence.
“Without our land, we are dead,” the fourth chief said. Instead of anger, however, his tone held great resignation.
Alex felt sorry for them. They had no idea what they were facing. The Americans were hungry for land, and expansion was all the talk back in the states. Oregon Country’s boundaries had only been settled the year before, and now the American government was encouraging citizens to move west with the promise of free land. (pp.65-66)
Whether or not the reader is familiar with the Whitman Massacre and the tensions surrounding it, this is a novel and a series that gives an even handed portrayal of the people and events while weaving them into enjoyable, though sometimes necessarily unpleasant, fictional storylines. What may feel like misery heaped on top of misery felt like a reflection of the place and time, so the moments of faith, love, and hope shone through.
Now, all this is not to say that I found no fault. In particular, the story did seem to get bogged down from time to time and Grace’s propensity for announcing “I am a healer” still has me wanting to roll my eyes. But having this trilogy be the first I’ve enjoyed from Tracie Peterson (granted, I had read very little previously) and my pleasure in finding a series that included a credible treatment of history that I am passingly familiar with helped to compensate for these faults.
While I enjoyed finally reading Grace and Alex’s story, it was also interesting to meet the younger two Flanagan sisters and other characters that appear in their stories. Had I started with this first novel I think my enjoyment and understanding of the fictional storylines in the rest of the trilogy would have been enhanced (though book 2, in my opinion, is the strongest of them, and would likely still be my favorite).
If you enjoy Historical Christian Romance, or Historical Fiction with romance, set in 1800’s Oregon Territory, then give this trilogy a try. This is not one for the faint of heart, however, as this is the book in which the actual historical event known as the Whitman Massacre is portrayed. I do recommend reading them in order for maximum enjoyment.
Treasured Grace by Tracie Peterson (Heart of the Frontier, #1) | Bethany House, Feb 2017 | paperback or ebook, 320 pages
This review refers to a paperback copy purchased through Amazon. All opinions expressed are my own.
From the Publisher:
In untamed Oregon Country, one young woman fights to keep her family safe.
Grace Martindale has known more than her share of hardship. After her parents died, raising her two younger sisters, Hope and Mercy, became her responsibility. A hasty decision to head west seemed like an opportunity for a fresh start but has instead left Grace in a precarious position. When missionary Dr. Marcus Whitman and his wife agree to let Grace and her sisters stay at their mission for the winter, Grace is grateful. Until they hear from their uncle in Oregon City, the three sisters have nowhere else to go.
As Grace adjusts to life in the West, she meets a fur trapper named Alex Armistead who intrigues and infuriates her in equal measure. But when a measles outbreak threatens lives at the mission and among the native Cayuse who live nearby, it is Alex who helps Grace use the natural healing remedies she learned from her mother to help where she can, despite Dr. Whitman’s disapproval. As the death toll rises, so do tensions between the settlers and the natives, and Grace soon finds herself and those she loves in more danger than she imagined possible.